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Chapter XVIII.

If any one supposes that 1459 this want of mutual harmony between his life and a single one of its circumstances is quite unimportant, let him be taught the meaning of our maxim by looking at the management of a house. The master of a private dwelling will not allow any untidiness or unseemliness to be seen in the house, such as a couch upset, or the table littered with rubbish, or vessels of price thrown away into dirty corners, while those which serve ignobler uses are thrust forward for entering guests to see. He has everything arranged neatly and in the proper place, where it stands to most advantage; and then he can welcome his guests, without any misgivings that he need be ashamed of opening the interior of his house to receive them. The same duty, I take it, is incumbent on that master of our “tabernacle,” the mind; it has to arrange everything within us, and to put each particular faculty of the soul, which the Creator has fashioned to be our implement or our vessel, to fitting and noble uses. We will now mention in detail the way in which any one might manage his life, with its present advantages, to his improvement, hoping that no one will accuse us of trifling 1460 , or over-minuteness. We advise, then, that love’s passion be placed in the soul’s purest shrine, as a thing chosen to be the first fruits of all our gifts, and devoted 1461 entirely to God; and when once this has been done, to keep it untouched and unsullied by any secular defilement. Then indignation, and anger, and hatred must be as watch-dogs to be roused only against attacking sins; they must follow their natural impulse only against the thief and the enemy who is creeping in to plunder the divine treasure-chamber, and who comes only for that, that he may steal, and mangle, and destroy. Courage and confidence are to be weapons in our hands to baffle any sudden surprise and attack of the wicked who advance. Hope and patience are to be the staffs to lean upon, whenever we are weary with the trials of the world. As for sorrow, we must have a stock of it ready to apply, if need should happen to arise for it, in the hour of repentance for our sins; believing at the same time that it is never useful, except to minister to that. Righteousness will be our rule of straightforwardness, guarding us from stumbling either in word or deed, and guiding us in the disposal of the faculties of our soul, as well as in the due consideration for every one we meet. The love of gain, which is a large, incalculably large, element in every soul, when once applied to the desire for God, will bless the man who has it; for he will be violent 1462 where it is right to be violent. Wisdom and prudence will be our advisers as to our best interests; they will order our lives so as never to suffer from any thoughtless folly. But suppose a man does not apply the aforesaid faculties of the soul to their proper use, but reverses their intended purpose; suppose he wastes his love upon the basest objects, and stores up his hatred only for his own kinsmen; suppose he welcomes iniquity, plays the man only against his parents, is bold only in absurdities, fixes his hopes on emptiness, chases prudence and wisdom from his company, takes gluttony and folly for his mistresses, and uses all his other opportunities in the same fashion, he would indeed be a strange and unnatural character to a degree beyond any one’s power to express. If we could imagine any one putting his armour on all the wrong way, reversing the helmet so as to cover his face while the plume nodded backward, putting his feet into the cuirass, and fitting the greaves on to his p. 364 breast, changing to the right side all that ought to go on the left and vice versa, and how such a hoplite would be likely to fare in battle, then we should have an idea of the fate in life which is sure to await him whose confused judgment makes him reverse the proper uses of his soul’s faculties. We must therefore provide this balance in all feeling; the true sobriety of mind is naturally able to supply it; and if one had to find an exact definition of this sobriety, one might declare absolutely, that it amounts to our ordered control, by dint of wisdom and prudence, over every emotion of the soul. Moreover, such a condition in the soul will be no longer in need of any laborious method to attain to the high and heavenly realities; it will accomplish with the greatest ease that which erewhile seemed so unattainable; it will grasp the object of its search as a natural consequence of rejecting the opposite attractions. A man who comes out of darkness is necessarily in the light; a man who is not dead is necessarily alive. Indeed, if a man is not to have received his soul to no purpose 1463 , he will certainly be upon the path of truth; the prudence and the science employed to guard against error will be itself a sure guidance along the right road. Slaves who have been freed and cease to serve their former masters, the very moment they become their own masters, direct all their thoughts towards themselves so, I take it, the soul which has been freed from ministering to the body becomes at once cognizant of its own inherent energy. But this liberty consists, as we learn from the Apostle 1464 , in not again being held in the yoke of slavery, and in not being bound again, like a runaway or a criminal, with the fetters of marriage. But I must return here to what I said at first; that the perfection of this liberty does not consist only in that one point of abstaining from marriage. Let no one suppose that the prize of virginity is so insignificant and so easily won as that; as if one little observance of the flesh could settle so vital a matter. But we have seen that every man who doeth a sin is the servant of sin 1465 ; so that a declension towards vice in any act, or in any practice whatever, makes a slave, and still more, a branded slave, of the man, covering him through sin’s lashes with bruises and seared spots. Therefore it behoves the man who grasps at the transcendent aim of all virginity to be true to himself in every respect, and to manifest his purity equally in every relation of his life. If any of the inspired words are required to aid our pleading, the Truth 1466 Itself will be sufficient to corroborate the truth when It inculcates this very kind of teaching in the veiled meaning of a Gospel Parable: the good and eatable fish are separated by the fishers’ skill from the bad and poisonous fish, so that the enjoyment of the good should not be spoilt by any of the bad getting into the “vessels” with them. The work of true sobriety is the same; from all pursuits and habits to choose that which is pure and improving, rejecting in every case that which does not seem likely to be useful, and letting it go back into the universal and secular life, called “the sea 1467 ,” in the imagery of the Parable. The Psalmist 1468 also, when expounding the doctrine of a full confession 1469 , calls this restless suffering tumultuous life, “waters coming in even unto the soul,” “depths of waters,” and a “hurricane”; in which sea indeed every rebellious thought sinks, as the Egyptian did, with a stone’s weight into the deeps 1470 . But all in us that is dear to God, and has a piercing insight into the truth (called “Israel” in the narrative), passes, but that alone, over that sea as if it were dry land, and is never reached by the bitterness and the brine of life’s billows. Thus, typically, under the leadership of the Law (for Moses was a type of the Law that was coming) Israel passes unwetted over that sea, while the Egyptian who crosses in her track is overwhelmed. Each fares according to the disposition which he carries with him; one walks lightly enough, the other is dragged into the deep water. For virtue is a light and buoyant thing, and all who live in her way “fly like clouds 1471 ,” as Isaiah says, “and as doves with their young ones”; but sin is a heavy affair, “sitting,” as another of the prophets says, “upon a talent of lead 1472 .” If, however, this reading of the history appears to any forced and inapplicable, and the miracle at the Red Sea does not present itself to him as written for our profit, let him listen to the Apostle: “Now all these things happened unto them for types, and they are written for our admonition 1473 .”



τὸ μὴ συνηρμόσθαι τινὶ διὰ τῶν καταλλήλων τὸν βίον


δολεσχίαν τοῦ λόγου τις καταγινώσκοι


σπερ τι ἀνάθημα; so Gregory calls the tongue of S. Meletius the νάθημα of Truth.


Gregory seems to allude to S. Matt. xi. 12.


πὶ ματαί& 251· λάβοι. Gregory evidently alludes to Ps. xxiv. 4, and agrees with the Vulgate “in vano acceperit.”


Gal. v. 1.


S. John viii. 34.


S. John xiv. 6


S. Matt. 13:47, 48.


Ps. lxix. 1.


διδασκαλίαν ἐξομολογήσεως ὑφηγούμενος


Exod. xv. 10.


Is. lx. 8. The LXX. has περιστερὰν σὺν νεοσσοῖς.


Zech. v. 7. “this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah:” πὶ μέσον τοῦ μέτρου (LXX.). Origen and Jerome as well as Gregory make her sit upon the lead itself. Vatablus explains that the lead was in an amphora.


1 Cor. x. 11; Rom. xv. 6.

Next: Chapter XIX